How to Stop Your Dog From Being a Lunatic in Public Places

How to Stop Your Dog From Being a Lunatic in Public Places

(Sorry, I meant … )

How to Socialize Your Dog


Is your dog a maniac when he sees another person or dog? (Or cat or squirrel or car or … you catch my drift).  I’m going to talk a bit about how to stop your dog from being a lunatic (scared and/or aggressive) in public places.

Trust me.  I know what it’s like to have a dog that goes nuts when out in public.  I had a German Shepherd named Star.  Beautiful girl!  She died last fall at the age of 14 of bone cancer.  It was the saddest thing.  I had her since she was just a tiny puppy.

How to Stop Your Dog From Being a Lunatic in Public Places, or How to Socialize your dog
Star, 14 years old

At the time, I lived in a secluded area in the woods, a couple of miles from the nearest paved road.  The road I lived on was just a two-track and you could take it to get from point A to point B and we were the only ones living on it.

When Star was about 6 months old, she ran down our very long driveway and we couldn’t find her!  It was late Friday, so we had to wait until Monday morning to call the dog shelter and Vet to see if anyone had found her, although it seemed unlikely that anyone would have picked her up. considering where we lived.  It was a very long weekend, spent walking and driving throughout the area looking for Star, to no avail.

Monday morning I called the Vet.  Surprise!  Someone had her!  He saw her on the road and figured she was lost.  He had no idea anyone was living there.  So he took her home and called the Vet.  I went to pick her up and was surprised at what I found.  This man had approximately 60 sled dogs on his property!  The noise and ruckus were amazing, to say the least.  Poor Star was looking quite traumatized.

3 Ways to Keep Your Dog Calm When Meeting New People

Well, she sure was.  After that, every time I took her somewhere and she saw a dog, she’d go nuts!  Pulling at the leash, trying to get out of the car window, nipping at little mutts’ backsides, baring her teeth like she wanted them for lunch.  Good grief.  People were afraid for their dogs.  Very afraid.

I had to be sure to have a good hold on her leash at all times because I never knew when she was going to pull my shoulder out of its socket lunging at another dog.  The dog could be half a block away.  It didn’t matter.  It was a dog.

She was a German Shepherd, remember.  At 6 months old she was already a pretty good size, and very strong.  Well, the day she almost pulled me in front of a semi truck to get to the dog on the other side of the road was the day I knew I had to get control of the situation.  I was pregnant at the time.  Yikes.

The Scream, Edward Munch

I knew socialization was the answer.  She’d grown up in the woods with no other animals than our own (which was quite extensive, actually).  She could live beside cats, one other dog, chickens, turkeys, and any other critter that wandered along.  It was just the “other” dogs that she had a problem with.  She had to learn that reality for her was not some fenced in yard with 60 loud, barking dogs.

How to stop your dog from being a lunatic.

We went to obedience school.  At first, I took her to the classes at PetSmart.  It was awful.  A German Shepherd barking carries very well in a big store like PetSmart.  The pet parents that were in the class with us were terrified for their babies.  I couldn’t blame them.  We tried everything, even spritzing water in her face whenever she barked.  She liked that, so that didn’t work.

We went to another obedience school.  This was more specialized and ran by a woman who raised German Shepherds.  Her two boys (Shepherds) were always with her.  They were huge and intimidating but that didn’t stop Star from looking like she wanted to tear them apart.  I recognized this as fear.  Sheer fear.

The pet parents at this school were also terrified for their babies.  But over time, Star realized that these other dogs weren’t threats to her at all and she calmed down.  After a while, she felt at home there and all was well, for the most part.  She still continued to bark at dogs parked next to her in parking lots, but we could walk past most dogs with no major catastrophes.  Mind you, I had to give her the “leave it” warning to reminder her, just in case.

Bottom line:  I socialized her as much as I could.  I brought her to where the dogs were.  We went to doggy Christmas parties, dog parks, and city streets.  She became an amazing dog.  Very calm and quite sure of herself.

A “Star” was born.

It wasn’t easy.  It took many months of training.  I took her through 4 or 5 different obedience training classes.  Partly because it was so fun for me, but mostly to socialize her by being around more dogs.  I even did agility training with her and took her to a competition.  She passed beautifully with flying colors and received an award.  I was a proud mamma.

Training with your dogs is one of the best things you can do.  It creates a bond between you and your dog like no other.  Aside from the obvious result of training — you have a well-behaved dog — the fact that she will listen to you now is invaluable.  It could even save her life.  Following are some tips you should follow for successful training.

How to Stop Your Dog From Being a Lunatic in Public Places
In Memory of Star, 14 years old

How to Stop Your Dog From Being a Lunatic in Public Places

  • Start your socialization training at home.  This should be the place where your puppy feels most comfortable.
  • Start small.  If you’re starting from the very beginning, with the “sit” command, for example, just training for 5 or 10 minutes at first.  As soon as you see the puppy getting distracted (or you start getting frustrated), end your training.  Puppies are like children.  They have a very short attention span.
  • Be the sole trainer.  Be the one your dog obeys, but have other members of the family follow your lead and continue to have the dog heed their commands.  If you want the dog to “sit”, she has to learn to “sit” when your family members give her that command too.  Sit means sit.  She can’t obey one person and not the other.
  • Slowly begin to take your dog on outings.  Continue to use her commands as much as you can.  A walk on city streets is great practice, having her “sit” at the curbs, “stop”, “walk”, “heel”. This is valuable beyond measure, and could even save her from running out into the street and lose her life.
  • Have your friends bring their dogs to your home — her place of safety.  Once she gets used to these dogs, start to bring her to parks and other places where other dogs hang out.  Obedience schools really are a priceless place to do this and I highly, highly recommend taking your dog through Obedience classes.
  • Never hit your dog!  If your dog is being an idiot misbehaving in public, use a stern and firm voice, letting him know this is not okay.  This is where the “leave it” command comes in handy.  Or, if you’re the Dog Whisperer, just “tst” will work.  😉
  • Treats!  Don’t forget the treats.  Dogs love to please.  But more than that, they’ll do practically anything for a treat.  When your dog obeys a command, reward with a treat.  Now, I don’t mean each and every time she sits for you.  We don’t want them getting fat.  But once in a while, or after each training session, tell them how great they are and give them their treats.  Make a big deal of it.  Like I said, dogs love to please their owners.
  • Eventually, your dog will “get it”.  Old bad habits will be forgotten, and you’ll have the best dog you’ve ever had.


How to Stop Your Dog From Being a Lunatic in Public Places

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55 thoughts on “How to Stop Your Dog From Being a Lunatic in Public Places”

  1. Haha…awesome title for an article covering a topic close to my heart right now!

    I would consider my new pup a ‘bit of a lunatic’ right now…hopefully he’ll calm down soon 🙂

  2. This page stood out a mile because of the fantastic title – having read the article I have found it to be a great read that will really help me hopefully get somewhere with Ralph and his training.
    Unnecessary barking and “Being a lunatic” in public is embarassing from a miniature dachshund so we definitely will be taking some of these tips with us ….. thank you

  3. Great information! We work hard on our dogs, Ziva used to be very fear aggressive and through lots of training (as much as we could on our own), and then formal training we have been able to lower her threshold and she is much better.
    We’re now moving onto agility because I want to build her confidence, and we’re starting doggy daycare soon! *crossing fingers* I think she’s ready. We interviewed them and I met the trainers, so now its just seeing what happens. Wish us luck! I’ll be posting more info about this new adventure soon!

    • I’m happy to hear that Ziva is coming around and being more mellow. Thank you for taking the time to work with her. You’ll love agility. I sure did, and so did Star. It will be interesting to see how it goes with Doggy Daycare. Keep in touch! Take care!

  4. Wow – she was a beauty and love the ‘Scream’ picture! And, yes I can identify – I had a Westie that was like that – he did grow out of it and became loving.
    But then we rescued Coney, our little Tibetan Terrier – who looks like a stuffed puppy and is very lovable (at home and with our other 2 dogs) – He is much better than he was – yep after obedience training! Loved your story Jeanne! 🙂

    • I had fun putting the Scream image in there. Haha. I looked up ‘Tibetan Terrier’. It really does looked like a stuffed puppy. What a little doll! I’m glad you had great results with your training. Thank you for reading my story. Peace.

  5. Your Star is so beautiful! She looks a lot like my Isis. Also reactive, also no longer with us. 🙁

    How wonderful that you were able to fix the problem. I, unfortunately, spent way too long with the wrong trainers before truly understanding why she was barking and lunging. (Even wrote a book about it, called Bark and Lunge).

    But I am finally having success treating my Leo’s leash-reactivity! I’m glad you joined the Positive Pet Blog Hop!

    • Kari, there’s nothing quite like a German Shepherd, is there? They’re all so beautiful. Sorry to hear of your experience with Isis, but happy that it’s going a lot smoother with Leo. Take care. Come back soon!

  6. Once my Frenchie decided the world was no longer a safe place thanks to being charged by a few loose dogs while we were out walking, he became a lunatic. Very embarrassing and sad because he was such a sweetie, really. I never could break him of it, although I really tried. Once he got to know a dog, he was fine. But until then…

    • Aww, that’s a pretty sad story, Val. I’m sorry to hear that. It’s a shame that had to happen. If only we could speak the same language, right? We could be more helpful in many ways. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and I do hope you’ll come again.

  7. Great post, I love your tips & your story – what a great job you did with Star! I’m a big believer in training classes, they increase a dog’s confidence which can help reduce anxiety. Sharing.

  8. For us, Felix’s lunatic tendancies didn’t really come from a lack of socialization, as much as a lack of coping skills, some crazy anxieties and a few other weird random problems (like a torn ACL). He WANTED to socialize with the dogs we met on walks and at the park, he just had no idea that his barking, pulling and general shenanigans were NOT a good starting point. It’s taken a lot of work, but we’ve finally made some huge strides. I think we achieved this much in the same way as you though: trust, good snack and a boatload of patience!

    • I’m happy to hear that Felix has mellowed out some. Sounds like you had quite a handful there. Dogs are all so unique, needing different ways of handling then other dogs. Don’t we love them so? 🙂 Come back soon, Jodi!

    • That’s true, Mary. And if you wait too long, it can be such a pain to correct those bad habits. Often times the dog gets blamed, abused, given away, or worse because they weren’t taught properly. Thanks for visiting today, Mary. I appreciate that.

    • I’m honored that you would stop by my blog, Carol. Thank you so much for stopping by! Yes, I get so upset when I see people hitting their dogs because the dog doesn’t understand. I’ll be going by your post for a visit too to read about Dog Spinal Disease. Thanks so much!

    • That is right, Sophia. You have to stay consistent and that’s why I mention that the whole family has to be in on the training too. You can’t expect the dog to learn by obeying you, but getting away with things with your child or spouse. Thanks for mentioning that! Cheers!

  9. Poor Star! What a traumatic experience for her and you! Glad she had to work with her and help her ease back into a happier more social life. I 100% agree Socialization needs to start as early as possible and not just with the same group of people and toys and games. The more you can introduce a young puppy to the more likely they will grow up to be a happy Social dog.

    • You’re absolutely right, Felissa. The sooner you start socializing your pup, the better. The dog will grow up being well rounded. Thanks for your comment! I’ll be checking out your post too about Separation Anxiety in your New Puppy! Sweet. Take care!

  10. Great timing! We need this article – my brother (a puppy) has some fear aggression issues…. I guess we all can’t B perfect! Thanks for dis – it makes us all feel like we’re going down da right road!

    • Hey, there, MattieDog. Thanks for trotting on over here to my blog! You take good care of that little brother of yours. Teach him that there’s nothing to be afraid of. 🙂 Come back and visit me again, okay? Woof!

  11. Great article. I don’t have a dog, but my children have been asking to get one for a while. I’ll have to keep your article in mind when we do end up getting one :). We will for sure be doing some obedience training because I have no idea how to train a dog!

    • I would highly recommend obedience training, if you do get one. Especially with children around because, ahem, they tend to let puppies get away with a lot of things they shouldn’t. Thanks for visiting my blog today, Jennifer! Take care!

  12. Many people just do not realize the work that being a responsible pet parent entails, and that you must know your pet, socialize your pet, and take proper care of your pet, no matter what the pet is. And your pet will reward you so greatly.

    • You are right, Alana. You don’t just get a pet and expect things to take care of themselves. We have to put in the time, the care, and the training if we want healthy and happy pets (and pet parents). I’m glad you stopped by, Alana. Peace!

  13. I used to be real good, but over time I’ve gotten possessive of Mom and I can make a real fool out of us sometimes in public, but we keep going out and working on it. I might return to my old self one of these days.

    • Stroking the head of two kids is definitely not the same as stroking a puppy or kitty. You should get yourself a kitty for when those 2 kids are in bed. So a little me-time kitty therapy. Thanks for stopping by, Dorit. I appreciate you!

  14. I havehad I have had some lunatic dogs, but usually not dealing with their socialization. I’ve never taken one to an obediance class either, but I’m sure they would be worth it.

    • I loved the obedience training and agility training. It truly does create a wonderful bond with the dog. All the best Jenn. Haven’t seen you around for a while, so it’s nice to see you here today. Take care.

  15. I have cats rather than dogs, but I can imagine how rewarding it must be to see the results of your training. I’m so sorry you lost Star, but glad for all the years you had with her. 🙂


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